Shockingly, it took just over six weeks for "free speech absolutist" Elon Musk to suspend the automated Twitter account that has been tracking the movements of his private jet for the last year.
It should surprise no one that, after suggesting, back on November 6, that his commitment to free speech on Twitter was so strong that it "extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk," Musk would change his mind. And he has!
My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 7, 2022
As of Wednesday, as TechCrunch reports, the account @ElonJet, which was among a group of flight-tracker accounts set up by University of Central Florida student Jack Sweeney earlier this year using publicly available flight data, was shut down. Only the @ElonJet account is suspended, though. Another one follows Mark Zuckerberg's jet, and one follow's Elon Musk's brother, Kimbal Musk's jet. The accounts also post automated data following each flight about the amount of jet fuel burned, the cost of that fuel, and the carbon emissions — kind of an art and science project giving transparency to the environmentally detrimental excesses of the wealthy. Those other accounts are still active.
Sweeney had already publicly complained in a thread titled "My Twitter Files" about being "shadowbanned" by Twitter — and maybe this was what annoyed or embarassed Elon enough to kill the account for good. Basically, Sweeney was throwing back in Musk's face the idea that conservative voices were being censored back in 2020 — a narrative that has made him a darling of right-wing media in recent weeks — by showing how, in real life right now, he was being shadowbanned by Twitter employees.
Screenshots, seemingly leaked by a Twitter employee, purported to show that Twitter Product & Trust head Ella Irwin had ordered @ElonJet to be "visibility filtered," so that fewer people would be able to see it. Similar screenshots and emails were earlier shared by Musk with conservative-friendly journalists Bari Weiss and Matt Taibbi to document how Twitter employees had debated how to handle the Hunter Biden laptop story of late 2020, and the permanent ban of Donald Trump.
We know that the @ElonJet account had gotten under Musk's craw back in January, when he offered Sweeney $5,000 to take it down, calling it "a security risk." Sweeney asked for $50K, Musk balked, and that was that. Musk didn't balk at the price, apparently — he said something in an exchange about not being comfortable with having "to pay to shut this down." Free speech!
But Musk did pay $44 billion for something, and if nothing else, amidst all the kvelling and media piling-on that he's been dealing with the last few weeks, the least he can do with his newfound power is shut down an account that was tracking his jet's every move, right?
Well, sure. But the hypocrisy still stands, and he probably shouldn't have stuck to his guns so hard about absolute free speech without thinking through all of these threads.
Not to be deterred, Sweeney has simply set up a new @ElonJet account over on Mastodon.
Photo: Rob Hodgkins/Wikimedia